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Residents fear long-term effects despite no radioactivity
North Korean soldiers rest while building a fence near the North Korean town of Sinuiju Authentic Evgenii Dadonov Jersey , opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong on Sunday. North Korea demanded on September 11 that the US recognize it as a "legitimate nuclear weapons state" following its fifth and largest atomic test. Photo: AFP
Chinese residents living near the North Korean border have expressed concern over the developments on the Korean Peninsula, worrying about radiation risks and dangerous North Korean army deserters.
Seismologists on Friday detected a 5.0-magnitude artificial earthquake centered around Punggye-ri, a nuclear test site located in North Korea's North Hamgyong province, which is some 100 kilometers from the Chinese border.
After the nuclear test, Chinese soldiers on the border began interrogating drivers of all the passing cars and checking their ID cards.
"It is because of the latest nuclear test," a group of soldiers in Mapai village, Yueqing township in Jilin Province, told a Global Times reporter. They demanded that all photos related to North Korean villages be removed from reporters' cameras, even if the pictures were blurred.
A pharmacy sales assistant surnamed Cui in the border city of Tumen, Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, Northeast China's Jilin Province, expressed her worries over the lasting impact of the nuclear tests.
"Radiation may currently stay at a normal level, but what if the later generations are gradually exposed to the radioactive contamination in the long-run?" Cui told the Global Times.
Yang Yanyan, a 34-year-old expectant mother, shared the anxiety.
"I'm worried that my future child, who will live and study here, will have to suffer from contaminated grain, water and air," she told the Global Times with a frown.
The Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection said no signs of artificial radioactivity were detected in Northeast China as of Sunday, according to the ministry's daily results published on its official website.
The artificial quake was caused by a nuclear device with a yield estimated to be between 11.9 and 23.9 kilotons - the most powerful of Pyongyang's five nuclear tests to date. The yield may be higher than that of the "Little Boy" atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima in 1945 and close to that of "Fat Man" in Nagasaki, according to the seismic results sent to the Global Times by Wen Lianxing's group at the University of Science and Technology of China on Saturday.
Most local residents reached by the Global Times said they felt helpless in the current situation, as there is nothing they can do to stop the deteriorating development on the Korean Peninsula.
Compared to radiation, the bordering villagers who will bear the brunt of chaos in North Korea care more about its worsening economy. A mother of a 2-year-old girl in Bailong village on the bank of the Tumen River admitted that she was more concerned about North Korean army deserters who cross the river to kill villagers in order to burglarize their houses.
The last two years have witnessed rising murders by North Korean army deserters in Yanbian. Three Chinese citizens were killed by three deserters from the North Korean army in April 2015 in Longcheng township in the border city of Helong. On December 27, 2014, a North Korean soldier killed four locals during a burglary in a village in Nanping township, Helong.
According to data from China's General Administration of Customs, the trade volume between China and North Korea in July stood at 280,562 yuan ($43,163).
Some local residents, as well as Jin Qiangyi, director of the Asia Studies Center at Yanbian University, called for a tougher response from China.
Life goes on
Nevertheless, most Chinese people are living their lives normally here. Over the weekend, thousands of citizens in Yanji flocked to Wanda Plaza, which opened on Friday.
"There is nothing to worry about. I've got used to it. They either conduct tests or launch missiles," a 47-year-old woman surnamed Teng in Yanji told the Global Times. She went ahead with her routine square dancing at the People's Park on Saturday.
Eight months ago, North Korea carried out its fourth nuclear test, which was reported to be successful.
A taxi driver surnamed Zhang in Yanji felt a tremor on Friday morning as he lay in bed, but he did not panic and rush downstairs.
The soldier-turned taxi driver believed his increasingly strong country will protect him. "China has not responded in its most severe manner, which means the situation is still under control. Why do we need to be so bothered?"
Echoing Zhang, a resident in Longjing city bordering North Korea, believed that the nuclear test was just "a game of bluff," saying North Korea would not dare to fire nuclear weapons against China.
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